Hike your own hike.
You hear that a lot on the trail.
I started my thru-hike with the intention of letting go of some of my habitual ways of meeting the world. I wanted to be more social. To learn to ask for help. To gain self-confidence. To learn what it means to hike my own hike.
Even though I'm generally pretty good at going my own way without undue influence from others.
I can still be easily influenced.
I’m susceptible to following.
Here come the pangs.
Not that there's anything wrong with following or letting others make the decisions for a while. It's only bad if, while following, you're feeling pangs that tell you it's time to go your own way.
Or if it becomes habitual.
But you can’t know one thing without knowing its opposite. You can’t know light without knowing darkness. You can’t know love without also knowing fear.
And you can’t know the joy of hiking your own hike without knowing the unease of not trusting yourself to know what’s best for you, to know what gives you life.
I learned how to hike my own hike the hard way, with an injury that took me off the trail and prevented me from completing the AT as a thru hike.
Learning to notice the signs.
But it wasn’t like there weren’t signs along the way.
Internal signs were there all along--getting annoyed; small disappointments adding up along the way (not taking a day in Harper’s Ferry or Salisbury, being rushed through a resupply, not allowing myself to take a nap or even stretch because I felt like I had to get the miles in).
External signs were there, too.
Mostly coming from other hikers, unbeknownst to them.
Things I saw them doing or heard them saying that made my heart catch a little.
Early Bird was committed to hiking alone so he could stop and look and watch the birds that tend to disappear when people are around.
Dylan stopped mid day at a shelter with a patio and lounge chairs. Called it quits for the day and was cooking up his rice and beans and committed to chilling there the rest of the afternoon. Or not. The choice was his and his alone.
Erica was hiking the Long Trail in Vermont. I overheard her tell her potential tramily, “Y’all go ahead. I’m just going to do my thing.” Then telling me how she’s taking her time and making sure to visit all the little Vermont villages along the trail.
1 Night Stand got his trail name because he steadfastly refused to adopt a trail family, hanging out with other hikers a night or two then moving on. At his own pace.
I don't have any regrets about staying with my tramily. I don't even have regrets about not finishing. (Because I get to go back!)
But now I get how vital it is to listen to pangs and trust my inner compass, to trust my Self to know what's best for me in spite of any fears my little self is tossing out there for chuckles.
I get how that's a good skill to have as a spiritual seeker.
And the good news is that now I get to go back and practice listening to those pangs and following where they lead.
That's my intention for the next 400 miles, anyway.
And the rest of my life!